Thursday, May 29, 2003

The Fig Leaf Mission

France and the UN have now covered themselves, if not in glory, then at least, with the pretense of righteous engagement. The Security Council is on the verge of authorizing the dispatch of a peacekeeping force to the Congo, where 5,000 people have been dying each week in widespread anarchy. The French Blue Helmets are coming, but if you read the fine print, only as far as the news cameras can reach. Here are the money paragraphs:

France will lead the battalion, which is expected to have about 1,000 troops from a number of countries in Europe as well as Pakistan, South Africa and Nigeria.

The force would be deployed only until September, when 1,500 Bangladesh-led troops are expected to be deployed to Bunia and the surrounding Ituri region as part of a the U.N. peacekeeping force for Congo.

The French-led troops will work with the 750 U.N. peacekeepers from Uruguay already in Bunia to bring stability and protect the airport, refugees, and the people in town "if the situation requires it."

This force, consisting as it does of a motley which would do the Tower of Babel proud and whose mission is circumscribed to defending a narrow circle around the key installations of Bunia, will in no wise stop the death which will continue beyond the circle of camera lights. And the UN knows it. Carolyn McAskie, the U.N. deputy emergency relief coordinator, who just returned from Bunia, said:

"The real story is nobody knows what's happening in the rest of Ituri, which is hard to access. The district has a population of between 3 million and 4 million."

And the UN doesn't care, does it. It doesn't care.